Self described as the third largest printer in Canada, Solisco was founded in 1991 and now has a team of more than 400 employees working at its Scott headquarters in the Beauce, as well as at Maison 1608 and its Solisco-Numérix division in Quebec City. Solisco recently announced a partnership with Toronto printer Trade Secret Web Printing.
Solisco prints 1.2 billion pages per month, binds three million copies and 600,000 books per week, and prints around 400 magazines, books, circulars, and catalogues every month with print runs of 5,000 to two million.
Solisco explains the new brand image highlights its founding principles, mission, and values: first, positioning Solisco as an expert, stressing the excellence and quality of its products; second, focusing on environmental sustainability and its longevity as a business; and third, bringing out the company’s customized service.
The logo Maison 1608 created is influenced by both the infinity symbol ∞ and press rollers. Solisco explains it can also be read as the letters CO, a reference to co-operation and collaboration among employees, clients, and partners.
Solisco’s new slogan, Creativity in Print, is meant to reference both printing on a surface and making a lasting impression, explains the company, emphasizing the role that paper plays in the world. The company’s new position is extended across various brand descriptions, based on the place that print occupies in everyday life: Inspiration in Print, Strategy in Print, History in Print, Discovery in Print, Beauty in Print, Approachability in Print.
Kouwenhoven was Hemlock’s Chairman and CEO for the past four years after stepping down from running the company’s day-to-day operations for the previous 47 years. Less than a year after immigrating to Canada from The Netherlands in 1961, Kouwenhoven began to form what is now recognized around the world as a trailblazing printing company not just in terms of its high-end sheetfed perfecting capabilities, digital printing prowess and adoption of cutting-edge imaging technologies, but also in its environmentally progressive position.
Kouwenhoven was diagnosed with esophageal cancer a little more than a month ago. Describing his father as “a gentle person who quietly went about his business,” Richard Kouwenhoven explains his father remained active in life and business until the family understood how aggressive the cancer was.
“He set an example for so many people in our industry. Within Hemlock, he set a tone, an ethic that is held throughout our business today. It is part of our identity and it came through all of his dealings in the industry. The example he set is going to impact our industry for a long time,” says Richard, President and Chief Operating Officer of Hemlock.
In a letter sent to industry colleagues last night, Richard shared that he, along with his mother Clara and sister Vanessa, were by Dick’s side when he passed; that his brothers Frits, Bill and Frank were able to spend precious time with him while he was in hospital. “Myself, Frits and members of our Leadership Team met with the Hemlock staff today,” he wrote, “We shared our deep sadness and appreciation for his amazing vision, energy and leadership that created the special community we experience every day at Hemlock. We also thanked him for the legacy that he leaves behind and the wonderful example that he has set for us.”
Plans for a family funeral service as well as a celebration of life are underway. The celebration of life event, which will be open for staff, industry colleagues and friends, will likely occur at the latter part of May, explains Richard, but the venue and exact date have not yet been determined.
The following excerpts are taken from Dick Kouwenhoven’s speech in December 2015, when he received PrintAction’s Lifetime Achievement Award, answering questions he was commonly asked about his life in print:
How did you get into the printing trade?
As most of you know, I was born in the Netherlands, in a beautiful old city named Delft. My hometown became a city in 1246, about 250 years before Columbus ran into North America, on his way to Asia.
In the 17th century, Delft was famous for brewing the best beer, in numerous small breweries, but also for printing beautiful bibles. It is said that the number of breweries were equal to the number of churches in the city. That was reasonable balance to secure continuity for both industries.
I was born during the Second World War, as the ninth child of what would become a family of 12 children. Big families were very common in the Netherlands at that time. The Netherlands was occupied by Germany at that time. My older siblings (some in their teens) were in hiding to stay out of view. They were understandably very difficult times for all people in Holland. One of my first memories was the joyful crowds in the streets, with Dutch flags flying, when the country was liberated in early May of 1945. I was three years old, but I have a clear image of that scene of hundreds of happy people in the streets after spending most of my early years inside the house.
My father was a contractor/builder; second generation, continuing in his dad’s footsteps after he passed away. We had an impressive carpentry workshop behind the house, and as small kids we managed to get into the shop frequently. They made beautiful wooden windows and doors, heavy, structural stuff. We knew the craftsmen by name, and we were shown how they shaped the wooden components, and joined them with wooden dowels.
I knew at an early age that I wanted to work with my hands, creating beautiful stuff. My Dad did carpentry work for a local printer occasionally, and he was always fascinated by what he saw there. When I started to miss my marks in High School, he encouraged me to take a look at the printing trade, and arranged an interview. I learned about the practical combination of 4 days at work and 1 day at school, with a diploma after 5 years. So I became an apprentice compositor, signing my life away with a 6 year iron clad employment contract.
My Dad deserves much credit for his skills as a career councillor. I loved the work, the rapid learning curve, and the comradery of the workplace, much more than being a full time student.
When and why did you immigrate to Canada?
After eight years of learning and working in the trade in the Netherlands, including courses in estimating and accounting, I took the step (together with my brother John) to immigrate to Canada. That was not a big deal, because we already had three brothers who were established in Vancouver.
Much to my surprise, I found employment the day after I arrived in Vancouver, and started work on the following Monday. Too fast, I found, but they needed a typesetter desperately.
When did you start Hemlock Printers?
About six months after my arrival, I was approached by a gentleman who had just purchased a small storefront printery by the name of Hemlock Printers. He had no previous experience in printing, but he had great contacts in the business community, and could fill that little place with orders, no problem. All he needed was an all-round typesetter/printer who could make things happen in the shop.
So I accepted, and worked hard to keep him and his clients happy. He learned about selling print, and I learned about managing expectations, and deliver nicely printed letterheads, envelopes, business cards and wedding invitations etc. on time.
In fairly rapid succession, I invested some money, and became a 50% partner. I learned that a partnership is a poor ship to sail on, and I bought my partner out in 1968, incorporated the little company, borrowed some money, installed some new, better presses, and hired some staff, and moved to larger premises.
Looking back, what were the major events that put Hemlock on a path of growth?
With a move to larger premises just about every 5 years, we again faced a move from about 15,000 overused square feet in 1986. This time there were installations of some new and bigger presses involved and a big pre-press department to feed a total of 17 Heidelberg Speedmaster units. We were fortunate to find just the right place just a block away.
It was big. Too big at first glance. At 54,000 square feet, it looked like an airplane hangar. “We’ll never grow out of this one” was the conclusion of our staff. And they were right. We are still there after nearly 30 years.
Coinciding with an economic boom in Vancouver just before and after Expo’86, Hemlock experienced more than 20 percent growth per year in succession – with this growth in business, our team, our capacity and our capabilities expanded with the demands of the local market we served.
What are some things that make you proud of Hemlock’s success?
During the 47 years since 1968, we were fortunate to make so many friends in the industry and to build lasting relationships with customers, suppliers, employees and the larger community. The quality of our work and service standards make us proud, every day. In my daily walk through the plant, I am in awe of the dedication of our staff to serving our clients to the best of their ability. Our clients know it. There is a passion to excel that you can see and feel.
We have adopted and refined our environmental and social sustainability commitments, and shared our programs and practices freely, to help us all towards a better tomorrow. While it takes time, effort and investments, we feel that we must continuously improve.
I am also proud of the contributions of my family who have played such an important role in Hemlock’s success. Clara, my sweet wife of 48 years, my dear brother and business partner John, who passed away in 1997, dynamic brother Frits, selling up a storm in the USA, Richard responsible for day-to-day from the corner office, and all others who support our efforts.
What does the future hold for Hemlock?
Under Richard’s leadership, we will be expanding our on-line presence and facilities. Our well-oiled fulfillment centre will be expanded in response to increasing demands. And always stay the course with our employees and all our stakeholders to maintain Hemlock’s values and principles, which are pivotal to its continued success.
The Girls Who Print Panel features some of the most influential leaders in Canada’s graphics communications industry, including: Deanne Sinclair, President, Cambridge Label Inc.; Marg Macleod, Association Manager, Digital Imaging Association; Audrey Jamieson, President, Marketing Kitchen Inc.; April Burke, VP Operations & Technology, LM Group; Romy Hahn, Director, Sales & Marketing, Annan & Sons; and Joanne Hisey, Account Manager, Kwik Signs.
To be moderated by Deborah Corn from Print Media Centr, the Girls Who Print Panel will take place on Thursday, April 6, at 4:00 pm in Hall 5, Innovations Theatre, show floor. It is free for attendees.
The Future of Print Panel 2, A Designer's Perspective, features some of Canada’s top creative directors and design agencies principals, including: Dominic Ayre, Creative Director, Hambly & Woolley; Yen Chu, Creative Director of Design, J. Walter Thompson Toronto; Fidel Peña, Co-Founder, Creative Director, Underline Studio; Tony Ponzo, Creative Director, Haft2 Inc.; and Stussy Tschudin, Principal, Forge Media.
To be moderated by Xerox’ Beth Ann Kilberg-Walsh, VP, Marketing Commercial Excellence, the Future of Print Panel 2, takes place on Thursday, April 6, at 2:00 pm on the show floor. It is free for attendees.
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The Océ Arizona 2200 Series includes flatbed-based UV-curable printing systems designed for producing both rigid and flexible work. Building from an existing Arizona platform, the newest Océ Arizona series, according to Canon, are designed as versatile and high-quality imaging systems for mid-volume print producers.
The imagePRESS C10000VP Series is designed for high-volume digital printing, running a range of media types, with what Canon rates as a monthly duty cycle of up to 1.5 million letter-size images. The imagePRESS C10000VP Series reaches print speeds of up to 100 letter images per minute with the C10000VP model and 80 letter images per minute with the C8000VP model, with both systems supporting media weights of up to 350 gsm. The imagePRESS C10000VP Series produces a resolution of up to 2,400 x 2,400 dpi with automatic colour control and adjustment.
The Canon imagePROGRAF 60-inch PRO-6000S and 44-inch PRO-4000S large-format printers using an 8-colour LUCIA PRO ink system designed for applications like production signage, commercial photography and proofing. The LUCIA PRO ink set adopts newly formulated, micro-encapsulated pigment inks for what the company describes as strong colour reproduction, image clarity and fine lines. Canon explains these reproduction characteristics are well suited for creating posters and advertising displays.
Amazing Print Tech provided PrintAction with a preview of the following Graphics Canada 2017 booth highlights.
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Web-to-Print provider Amazing Print Tech is showcasing a range of online storefront technologies for areas the company describes as business-to-consumer, retail, business-to-business, corporate, websites, estimators and content management system plug-in technologies.
In addition to create new Websites, Amazing Print Tech states it offers the largest library of premade templates, which can be embedded into existing Websites.
On the top floor of ICON Digital Productions’ 90,000- square-foot manufacturing facility, tucked into a dimmed backroom, three technicians sit in front of a dozen screens grouped together on the wall like the Network Operations Centre of a cable news network. They are monitoring some of the highest profile static print and dynamic digital signs controlled by ICON’s newly minted Media division, including all the visuals hanging in Toronto’s Dundas Square and way-finding screens directing passengers at Pearson Airport.
Responsible for thousands of digital signs across Canada for Blue Chip clients like Shoppers Drug Mart, ICON Media illustrates the reach behind one of the country’s most unique visual communications companies. Designed to deploy national signage networks by procuring all of the necessary hardware, developing business plans and ultimately managing ever-changing content for clients, ICON Media is well-positioned to take advantage of an evolving wireless world. It provides the company with an irresistible vehicle for C-suite strategy discussions with clients. The bedrock of the parent company, however, is formed by ICON Visual with one of Canada’s most powerful technological infrastructures for large-format imaging.
ICON Visual dominates the company’s Markham, Ontario, facility, which any grizzled graphics pro would recognize by its curved-glass façade as the former home of Apple Canada. This division generates more than half of the parent company’s annual revenue, which in its most recent fiscal year amounted to just under $40 million, by pumping out static display graphics with print qualities demanded by the likes of Fortune 500 cosmetic and fragrance clients, Hudson’s Bay Company and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.
ICON Print is the third pillar of the company’s All Things Visual strategy, developed through a divisional rebrand in December 2016. After years of outsourcing the production of offset-print jobs for its Blue Chip clients, ICON in January acquired Toronto Trade Printing, bringing decades of 40-inch-offset expertise in-house. The move creates a multifaceted communications manufacturing company powered by ICON Media, ICON Visual and ICON Print.
Last year alone, ICON oversaw the printing of more than 20-million direct-mail pieces in addition to a range of offset-produced marketing collateral. The company’s executive team has spent the past several months looking at both commercial and trade printing operations to purchase in the Greater Toronto Area. “We look at print not so much as old technology. We look at it as just another communications medium. In fact, our numbers tell us there is a lot of growth in print still,” says Juan Lau, President of ICON Digital, who co-founded the company in 1995 with Peter Evans and Peter Yeung. “The last three or four years we kept looking at our financial statements and, ironically, the fastest growing service sector was commercial printing – and we were not even trying.”
Without a direct need to acquire book of business from a commercial shop, which is the primary M&A driver in today’s printing market, ICON’s executive team was focused on finding the best lithographic-manufacturing fit for its existing AAA client base. Lau explains his priority was to purchase a well-established printer to immediately provide the offset knowledge ICON lacks after two decades of building a roll-fed digital printing operation.
Approximately 80 percent of what ICON Visual now prints is produced with Durst roll-fed machines. Lau describes this as a key differentiator for ICON because its production has been built around a square-metre pricing model, driven as much by finishing and fabrication as by print production. “From a pricing model we are able to get more yield [using] rolls – just a pricing thing. We can get that buttoned down pretty quick. Printers getting into our space still go off the rate-card mentality,” says Lau, describing what he sees as traditional offset pricing based on number of sheets produced.
“We know a lot of commercial printers are trying to get into our space now,” says Lau. “To get into our line of work, they are going to blow their minds out on the finishing end… anyone can print, but it is the finishing that really makes or breaks a project.” Most commercial printers getting into large-format imaging also turn to flatbed machines, continuing to focus on cost-per-sheet pricing models.
Lau explains he never set out to build ICON as a traditional printing operation when the partners founded the company. In 1995, the Internet had not yet penetrated the minds of most people, fax machines and phones were the dominate business tools of the day, and modems were limited to speeds of under 20k. Still, Lau wanted the company name to hold the word digital, as well as production, because he initially wanted to start a video-production company. The key word ICON came to him one day when a radio host referred to Madonna or Michael Jackson, he cannot recall which, as the Icon of Pop.
Prior to opening ICON, Lau was running a photo-enlargement company producing monochrome engineering drawings and architectural blueprints, generating slim margins, pennies per sheet. Lau describes his large-format eureka moment arriving in the early 1990s after seeing new colour imaging technologies at a tradeshow: “The idea of taking a file and outputting larger-than-life graphics on just about any surface, whether it is vinyl or textiles, or what have you, nobody was really doing it.”
ICON’s first large-format machine was a Xerox electrostatic printer and, Lau explains, he and Evans decided to put a stake in the ground as a new type of printing operation. “We printed on sheets alright, but we printed it to transfer media and that allowed us to, with lamination, transfer it directly onto any substrate.”
The technology was slow, outputting two or three posters per hour, and not a realistic investment choice for offset-based commercial printers. Lau explains he was driven to own the market that ICON would serve, akin to McDonalds being synonymous with burgers, Coke with soda, and Rolex with watches. Advertising agencies were immediately drawn to the new output possibilities ICON could provide with one-off large-format printing, even if they would often turn to offset or screen technologies for longer runs. “We started to establish a name in the business to do mockups, ideas, innovative stuff,” says Lau, noting ICON initially produced a lot of tradeshow graphics ideal for one-offs.
“What we were bringing on was really, by today’s standards, considered disruptive technology,” Lau says. “We didn’t know it at the time, but I think we were disruptors.” He explains it took about a decade after ICON’s founding for large-format imaging technologies, shifting from heavy solvents to UV, to evolve into a viable printing process for new entrants. “We went through a metamorphosis ourselves around 2005,” Lau says. “A key turning point in our company because it allowed me to do what I do best and that is go downstairs and take care of the operations, because our sales had never declined since 2005.”
Lau was trained as a programmer and holds great affinity for taking a process-minded approach to business. He felt ICON’s challenge was not about topline sales and he began to search for more efficiencies in the facility. “Once I got my hands on the operations side, the process and all of that – [we previously had the] same level of sales, $10 million, for a while – our bottom line increased tremendously.”
ICON brought on a new customized ERP system, internally branded as Cyrious, and a much-needed scheduling system for what had become a very busy large-format shop. ICON also brought in a new Chief Financial Officer, Alex Christopoulos, who Lau credits with greatly improving cash flow and the company’s overall financial health.
Lau describes the years from 2005 to 2008 as a “pivotal time” for ICON as he and Evans also decided to stop producing trade work for other printers and instead sell direct into the commercial market. “Part of the improvement on our bottom line was we made a conscious decision to shift and go after end-user markets,” explains Lau. “If we look back right now, we could have a few chuckles over that. It was one of the best decisions we could have made.”
Around the same time, ICON’s future would be influenced by the arrival of significant developments in large-format digital imaging technologies with a new wave of UV-based inkjet systems. ICON threw out all of its older-generation, heavy-solvent inefficiencies and made significant investments in UV technology, which Lau also credits with improving the company’s bottom line. ICON’s attention to the bottom line through the latter half of the decade would soon prove critical as The Great Recession of 2008 fast approached, all but strangling print sales for months.
A year before the printing industry plunged into the throes of frozen marketing budgets, Lau points to the significance of another technological marvel on ICON’s future. “2007 was a pivotal year from a technology standpoint, because when the iPhone came out [it] launched wireless technology in my opinion,” he says. “With all of the apps, [Apple] launched a whole slew of development in wireless technology.”
The economic ecosystem that quickly developed around wireless technologies would serve as a catalyst for the growth in screen-based digital signage. Lau explains wireless technologies broke down barriers that had been fortified for years by the need to run so much cable and obtrusive hardware. Less than two years after the arrival of Apple’s iPhone, ICON purchased a two-person AV company called Gridcast in 2009, when digital signage was still very much in its infancy. ICON had previously worked with Gridcast on a project for the Bank of Montreal, which wanted to integrate a digital projection within a large banner with a cutout. “It went really well and that was another eureka moment with Gridcast,” recalls Lau, describing ICON’s first project to integrate both print and digital mediums.
“Gridcast was very AV-oriented – hang-and-bang hardware. We saw very quickly in the first year that the model wasn’t really going to be a sustainable model,” says Lau. “Not only did we develop it by feeding it through ICON’s customer base, we actually changed [it] into a consulting model.”
The Gridcast division, rebranded in December 2016 as ICON Media, has been a significant driver for the company. “Our business in Media is an annuity. We will charge you a three-year management deal,” says Christopoulos, as an example of how the company can work with a client to finance a network of in-store screens, while ICON is truly interested in ongoing content management services.
Christopoulos explains the company, to a much lesser extent, hopes to take the same approach with some of ICON Visual’s work, where they might provide a client with a free banner stand with a commitment to print work to cover it – ideally, changing out the print regularly – over the next several months. With The Bay, ICON Visual is also starting to print on magnetic sheets that can be applied to painted walls, speaking to the division’s growing attention on developing repeatable visual systems with clients. The continuing innovation in both ICON Visual and Media have developed a strong reputation south of the border, where the company now produces around seven percent of its work.
“[It isn’t] so much because we are a better printer. They have local guys down there. It was actually our Media division because they are a lot more proactive when it comes to new innovations,” says Lau. “Because they want to do new things with digital, they are very open-minded to talk about the other print things we offer. So that is how we have been using digital media, more as a way to penetrate organizations from the top down, as opposed to starting with procurement and working our way up.” ICON Media has been using Virtual Reality for almost two years to show clients, like Sport Chek’s CMO for example, what their stores will look like with large-format print.
As ICON Print is developed, the company plans to leverage strong C-Suite relationships to drive work onto litho presses. In fact, Lau envisions an emerging media procurement approach that will benefit the rebranded position of ICON’s three divisions: “I am hoping as more Millennials get into positions of power and decision-making, they are going to say, ‘Why do we need a separate print budget. This is a media budget. We need to line up all of our marketing together.’ I think those budgets are going to change. We are kind of placing a little bit of a bet that way.”
Under ICON’s new multifaceted media vision, Lau explains it is important to hold a true offset-printing presence beyond outsourcing. “We have only touched the surface of the excitement the Media division is going bring,” says Lau. “It is huge. The ICON rebranding of All Things Visual is going to take us to the next level.”
The ICON Visual division generates more than half of the parent company’s annual revenue, which in its most recent fiscal year amounted to just under $40 million, based on one of Canada’s most powerful large-format imaging infrastructures. ICON Visual, generating around 80 percent of its revenue through roll-fed Durst machines, traces its roots back to the company’s founding in 1995 as a pioneer in the display graphics sector.
ICON Media is responsible for managing national digital-signage networks for Blue Chip clients like Shoppers Drug Mart, as well as high-profile regional clients like Pearson Airport – way-finding screens – and Toronto’s Dundas Square. The division was established in 2009 after ICON purchased Gridcast and today works with clients to deploy signage networks with the ability to procure all of the necessary hardware, develop business plans and manage ever-changing content.
ICON Print is the third pillar of the company’s rebranding strategy, now focused on producing offset work in-house after it has been outsourcing such jobs for its client base. Last year alone, ICON oversaw the printing of more than 20-million direct-mail pieces in addition to a range of offset-produced marketing collateral. The company’s executive team spent the past several months looking at printing operations to purchase in the Greater Toronto Area.
With the acquisition of 25-year-old Toronto Trade, led by the printing expertise of President Kieron Pope and Vice President Steven Niles, ICON projects it will reach approximately $50 million in revenue by the end of its current fiscal year.
“We look at print not so much as old technology. We look at it as just another communications medium. In fact, our numbers tell us there is a lot of growth in print still,” says Juan Lau, President and CEO of ICON Digital, who co-founded the company in 1995 with business partners Peter Evans and Peter Yeung. “The last three or four years we kept looking at our financial statements and, ironically, the fastest growing service sector was commercial printing – and we were not even trying.”
Kieron Pope and Steven Niles are to remain in their leadership roles with the offset-printing operation. “This secures a bright future and legacy for our staff and customers and we couldn't be more excited to be part of a progressive organization like ICON,” said Pope, in a press release about the acquisition.
“Beth and I always agreed that we never wanted our business to become a hobby,” says Jack Youngberg, when asked why the company was shut down. “To continue to succeed in the current market was a factor in our decision. Our industry has become very competitive and commoditized.”
Somerset’s 29-inch, 6-colour Kormori HUV press, which was installed in mid-2013, has been sold to an unclosed printer. It was equipped with automatic plate changers and wash-up systems, with an ability to be used for both conventional printing or UV. Youngberg explains they are working on the sale of all other assets.
Youngberg explains they did not sell Somerset’s book of business, providing each account representative with the opportunity to maintain their current accounts and take them where ever they go.
“The industry is saturated. Everyone is chasing the same dollars. Supply outweighs demand,” says Youngberg. “The industry for the most part has been a very exciting wonderful area to work in. Somerset's employees, clients and suppliers have all contributed to our success.”
MGI Digital Technology invests approximately 20 percent of its annual sales back into research and development.This astonishing number speaks to the company’s origins just outside of Paris, France, and why it has raised the bar amid what are now some of the industry’s mostpowerful technology suppliers driving the growth of digital printing.
PrintAction spoke with Kevin Abergel, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at MGI USA, about the company’s mantra of innovation.
How was MGI founded?
Basically it was 1982 when my uncle was fresh out of the military where he had worked on anti-aircraft missile technology and he had learned a lot when it was still really early days for computers. When you look back further, actually, my grandfather was an offset pressman his whole life and on weekends in the summer his three sons all went into that environment to make some extra money. The three brothers who created MGI went into my grandfather’s shop and really learned the business from a traditional standpoint, which is why we have always had an affinity for commercial printers, because basically it is our bloodline – it is where we come from.
Has invention always been in your family?
My great grandfather, on my mother’s side, actually has the first patent for the first pneumatic feeder – 1925 or 1927 – for an offset press and it is up in our offices. We have a very strong and rich history in printing that runs through the Abergel veins. The first products MGI came out with were not necessarily in the print industry. They were some of the first computer programs for accounting, also for hospitals, big old floppy disks. That is really where we got started and then in 1991 we developed our first press – with a three-man team that developed a roll of basically Bristol paper that was being printed on digitally with a cutter just making business cards. It was called the Mastercard.
And then the next generation of Mastercard all of a sudden it went from one colour to two colours to four colours, while also going from a business-card format width to 8 ½ x 11, then 12 x 18, and then we were doing plastics. We have really gone through 13 or 14 generations of engines in our history on the digital press side. That is really how we built up the business from nothing to a business today with a market-cap above 200 million Euros. And now we have partners like Konica Minolta, which really raised the profile higher.
What is the Konica and MGI relationship?
The Konica Minolta and MGI relationship goes back 20 years actually… The base MGI business model has been to use initial Konica technology, whether it is inkjet heads or toner-based print engines, and sup-up those engines. Two years ago we really started to get a closer relationship when Konica Minolta invested 10 percent into MGI – we are a publically listed company – and as a result of that we developed a smaller version of the varnish and iFOIL, called the JETvarnish 3DS, exclusively for their sales network.
Because of the success that we had in that first year of bringing this product to market, Konica was now wanting to distribute the entire MGI portfolio and it was at that point in time that they went from 10 percent to 41 percent, which is a controlling interest in MGI where we have actually launched a new distribution agreement. Konica Minolta is now globally going to market and sell our entire lines of products. From a sales standpoint, it gives us much more visibility and from a service standpoint a much wider infrastructure.
How much has MGI grown in 10 years?
From 2008 to 2016, we grew something like 500 percent during some of the most difficult times in the printing industry. I think when times get tough people need to invest in something that brings a level of differentiation or innovation, so that they can actually compete on applications, not on price. That has really been our mantra this whole time. I do not care about how many pages you are printing per month. How much are you making on each one of those pages? If you are only making four or five percent that is not a good business model, but now if you can go to 60, 70 percent it is a different story.
Why is MGI’s new Artificial Intelligence SmartScanner, AIS, significant?
If I made a die or a screen, for example, I would never really be able to register any of what I am doing to a digital print for the simple reason that digital print moves page to page. The image registration maybe is going to be a little to the left or right, a couple of pixels up, a little skewed – every page is going to come out basically in a different position on the sheet.
So the most important thing is being able to move up, down, left, right and custom fit every single page by comparing it to the original PDF of the print file and seeing where the moves are. The key point here is that AIS is going to be creating – using artificial intelligence – a topographical map of your print. By comparing that live with the actual PDF of the print file, it is going to be able to stretch out all those points where maybe there is high ink density that shrunk the paper or maybe you laminated it so you have a severe slip, stretch or a fan. In screen printing maybe it would take me 20 minutes to stretch my screens out manually to get my fit right and I have to spend a lot of sheets to get my fit correct to be able to make up for all of those deformations once it is out of the press.
The scanner does away with all of that. Number one, your first sheet out is going to be perfect. Number two, you do not need that professional eye to understand where your stretch is in your sheet. It is all being done automatically as touch-less as possible. When you mix that in with the variable data barcode reading system… Not only will it varnish and foil the right image, but it is actually going to custom fit and custom register each one of those sheets as they are moving through. It has never been done before.
How much data is being processed to leverage the AIS topographical maps?
That was one of our biggest problems. If you look at the actual computer system that is just running the scanner alone it is basically doing five teraflops of information per second. It is a lot of information being crunched to be able to pull up the right file, trace the TIFF from the PDF, then be able to compare that file live to the actual print and be able to do all of the modifications automatically. For me it is the coolest technology we have ever done and we have done some pretty cool things.
What MGI technologies excite you most?
I also think that the fact that we have a B1 JETvarnish and a roll-to-roll JETvarnish or the fact that we are actually putting foil down with toner are all really fascinating products. I am most proud of the [AIS] scanner, because I know how much work went into it, almost four years of nonstop development and to see it actually work, knowing that it has been the unicorn. That was the codename for it, The Unicorn, because everybody was talking about it internally and hoping we would one day see it work.
What MGI technology is having the most market penetration?
Right now, the Meteor is having a large amount of success because, at the end of the day, it is still a digital press that can do all of the commodity stuff. But then you turn on the iFOIL and you start running envelopes or plastics or PVCs, or long formats, and put the foil down and it suddenly boosts your added value.
On the JETvarnish side, I would say that 95 percent of the people who are buying this equipment are getting into varnish and foil for the first time in their history. So from a market penetration standpoint, we are having more placements with the Meteor, but the JETvarnish is significantly up compared to previous years because I think the market is finally starting to accept digital embellishment. Out of all the JETvarnish products, we are having an incredible amount of success with our B1 JETvarnish and iFOIL… it really allows us to go after a whole new customer segment which is the packaging converter.
Is packaging ready for MGI’s digitization?
Packaging wasn’t one of our priorities. For the past 35 years, we have focused on commercial printers, but the packaging guys are the ones who came to us and pulled us into that market. The more we did research, the more it made sense for us to develop a 29-inch JETvarnish to be able to do those XL sheets and today that is our number-one selling unit and that is for the packaging convertors. A lot of commercial printers are trying to find ways into digital packaging as well, because, according to Infotrends, there will be 41 percent growth over the next two years in digital folding cartons. I do not know if you could show me one other statistic in our industry that is as incredible as that 41 percent.
How is MGI technology suited for labels?
I read a stat from LPC that said by 2020 three out of four new label presses will be digital. Most importantly, [with MGI technology] it not going to cost you a lot of money to varnish and foil jobs. It is going to be a low-cost job which you can still charge a premium for. The brands are the ones who are pushing it that way, which is a big part of what we do to educate the brands on the advantages of digital and being able to do this kind of work.
Built on more than 18 acres, the open, Kyosei-inspired interior of building is highlighted by a 5,000-square-foot interactive space that showcases the past, present and future of Canon innovation. From Canon cameras, printers and projectors to medical imaging equipment, copiers and production systems, the showroom will house the newest Canon products for customers and prospective customers. The company’s printing technologies occupy the majority of space in the showroom, including systems like the imagePRESS 10000VP and Oce VarioPRint 6320 Ultra+.
While print-production remains a major pillar of Canon’s business, second only to the company’s historic consumer-imaging sector, the new Canadian headquarters is designed to support its growing interests in both security and medical imaging systems. In 2014, Canon surprised the security industry with its acquisition of Milestone Systems, one of the world’s leading providers of video management software, and then in February 2015 spent approximately $2.8 billion to acquire security-systems giant Axis Communications.
Located at the corner of Mississauga Road and Steeles Avenue West, the new building brings together more than 400 Canon employees who will play a major role in driving the company’s diverse imaging interests across Canada.